Beach Town in a Forest

Beach Town in a Forest
Beach Town in a Forest, Pine Knoll Shores located in Carteret County on North Carolina's Crysal Coast. Photo compliments of Bill Flexman and Dave Prutzman

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Homeowner Associations: Whaler Inn Beach Club

Although not a traditional multifamily dwelling, the Whaler Inn Beach Club has a homeowner association with an interesting history. The complex began as a motel in the early 1970s and continued to reinvent itself throughout the 1980s.

The four-story Whaler Inn Beach Club, next to Beachwalk, is unlike other Pine Knoll Shore residential areas. It is our only timeshare condominium complex. Also, unlike most timeshares, it is fully owned and operated by timeshare owners through the nonprofit corporation Whaler Inn Owner Association (WIOA).

Early map showing Whaler Inn relative to the Iron Steamer and Pine Knoll Townes. 

The Whaler Inn began as a motel. County records show that Carpetbagger, Inc., with Jennings C. Brown President, optioned land owned by Mark Ballou and Rodham Lancaster for an oceanfront motel here in December 1970 and continued the following year to purchase property. The purchases included additional land from John Wooten of Cary, North Carolina and from the Roosevelt family. It seems the motel was built around 1972-73. 

In the winter of 1981, A.B. Hardy and Roger Champine bought the property and established Timesharing, Inc. (TSI). Taking out a large loan from First Federal Savings and Loan of Norfolk in 1982, they began remodeling, combining rooms to make condo units and selling them as weekly timeshares.

The rest of the decade was to prove difficult for this new Pine Knoll Shores’ timeshare. The Federal Savings and Loan went into receivership. Hardy and Champine abandoned the Whaler Inn. Timeshare owners, some holding deeds and others with deeds held by the bank, were in danger of losing all they had invested. By October of 1984, TSI was in bankruptcy. A couple of months later, the Whaler Inn closed.

However, interested owners without deeds had begun to organize, and owners with deeds established the owner association (WIOA). Together they worked out a settlement through the courts, requiring both deeded and non-deeded owners to buy shares in a reorganized TSI. Though some owners dropped out at this point, those remaining managed to exceed the share-subscription goal. In February 1986, they had their first TSI shareholder meeting and elected a 15-member board of directors. It was later that year, after almost selling to Peppertree, that TSI purchased remaining unit weeks held by the bank.

Over the years, TSI and WIOA continued as separate entities and went through some bumpy patches together. They met obstacles head on. For example, in 1991, when the inn’s septic system failed, they managed to design and build a new sewer treatment plant, which was completed in 1992.

In February 1995, Jay Martin, President of the TSI Board wrote a history that I have used to gather information for this article. He announced, “It’s been a long road since receivership began in 1984,” but he was happy to report that TSI had finally paid off its final bank debt. In 1998, TSI dissolved, bought out by WIOA.

The Whaler Inn Beach Club has a total of 42 timeshare units—one and two-bedroom units as well as efficiencies. Each could sell for 50 weeks, so there could be as many as 2,100 owners. Currently, there are about 1,475, all of whom hold deeds. WIOA owns unsold unit weeks. Those who buy Whaler Inn units for a specific week or weeks during the year pay a one-time purchase price. Like other home and condo owners who pay an association fee, they also pay an annual maintenance fee.

The concept of shared ownership of a vacation home emerged in Europe in the 1960’s, but in the United States, the concept did not take hold until the 1970’s and 80’s, when furnished condominiums and entire resorts began to be built as timeshares. Owners, during their week(s), may opt to stay themselves, rent their place or trade their place for a stay at another timeshare elsewhere. The Whaler Inn is affiliated with Interval International, which maintains a worldwide network of properties, so owners here can become Interval members and trade off with other timeshare owners in about 75 countries.

The Whaler Inn also functions as a hotel, providing overnight accommodations for tourists who want a place for one or more days. Off-season, some units rent monthly for $600 to $800 plus tax, including all utilities.

In addition to 42 timeshare units, the inn has three regular motel rooms; two larger suites on the fourth floor; a conference room rented out for meetings, weddings, and other parties; and an apartment, which is either used as the residence of an on-site manager or rented when the manager is a local resident.

WIOA, governed by a seven-member board elected by owners, is responsible for maintaining the property. It employs 18-20 people year round and approximately ten more in summer months. The association also regularly plans facility upgrades.

The Whaler Inn Beach Club has owners from around the country and a few from other countries, but it also has owners from Pine Knoll Shores. These are residents who may have joined to have beach access year round and/or to use amenities, such as the glass-enclosed pool and hot tub, unique in Pine Knoll Shores. (Off-season weeks can sell for as little as $175 with an added commitment to pay the annual maintenance fee.) Pine Knoll Village residents, as a benefit of their deeds, are also Whaler Inn timeshare owners, and Water Babies, a local group, does water aerobics there Monday through Thursday for a nominal fee.

When I asked Manager Sherry Ellingsworth what else was noteworthy about the Whaler Inn, she talked about its being a resource in the community, a place, for example, to have an overflow crowd of family and friends stay or a place to swim year round or a place to hold a party. She described weddings on the beach with receptions in the fourth-floor conference/party room.  

Blog Post Author: Phyllis Makuck
To contact the author or the History Committee